4 Myths About Marketing to Scientists

Scientists - the conventional wisdom goes – make decisions, including purchase decisions, differently from other people. Using their highly trained minds they apply the rigorous scientific process to everything; from analyzing experimental data to buying lab equipment, mobile phones or hiking boots every decision is supposedly driven by forming a hypothesis, gathering and analyzing data, and drawing educated conclusions.

Informed, or shall we say misinformed, by this stereotype, marketing campaigns targeted at scientists have long focussed on innovative features of a product or service, on data, tables and statistics. The scientist as a person, as a consumer, an individual with their own pain points and challenges didn’t quite emerge from behind that idealized picture of the dispassionate, objective decision maker.

But now a new realization has set in: Scientists are people, too! This simple and admittedly not entirely revolutionary insight dramatically changes how you market to scientists. Here are four major myths about marketing to the scientific community that are overdue for debunking.

Myth #1 – Scientists don’t use social media

That claim might have been true 10 years ago. Scientists were certainly not the first to flock to Facebook, Twitter and Youtube to have deep scientific exchanges. But: a lot has happened since! For one social media is ubiquitous and, importantly, the first “digital natives”, the millennials, are now the largest group within the workforce. For them social media is not a new channel they are struggling to integrate into an established routine, social media is their default way of communicating, interacting, researching, and learning in everyday life. Why would science be different?

Social media offers many advantages in the fast-moving world of scientific research: it is easier to stay in touch with colleagues, to collaborate, to hear about relevant publications, to provide feedback, ask questions and learn new methods. Video as an educational tool is one of the big trends: a video demonstration of a protocol, for example, handily beats reading lengthy printed instructions.

A word of caution is in order: scientists are discriminating and unlikely to jump head first into the next trend, so it might be a while before live streaming of a flow cytometer in action will trend on Twitch.

What this means for your marketing campaign: the scientists are on social media, finding the right channels and crafting messages that set your company and products apart from the noise is the art and science of social media marketing to scientists. There is no one right way of doing it, but not engaging scientists on social media is definitely the wrong way.

Myth #2 - Scientists are all about innovation, all the time

While this claim is undisputed when it comes to scientific experimentation, it is not true as it relates to scientific tools and equipment. Scientists love innovation but they want their tools to be reliable and generate reproducible results. Research is very time consuming, funding is scarce, and a scientist’s career depends on them publishing results that hold up to scrutiny. No wonder that scientists don’t like to take risks with their equipment.

What this means for your marketing campaign: established brands, personal (positive) experience, peer recommendations and thought-leader endorsements matter. For example, building and cultivating relationships with key opinion leaders willing to endorse a product is not just for drug companies anymore. An authentic and believable endorsement by a highly regarded researcher might make the difference between receiving a PO or an email saying “maybe we’ll have the budget next year”.

Myth #3 – Stories are only for consumer goods and lifestyle brands

Everybody who follows the latest trends in marketing has heard it by now: telling stories is the new thing. It really isn’t new, it is as old as humankind, which is precisely why it is so powerful. Stories are how people relate, stories are how people learn and remember.

And, as we pointed out before, scientists are people, too, and as such they relate to stories. Stories, therefore, are no longer just for consumer goods and lifestyle brands, but for scientific tools and equipment as well. These scientific stories have to be relevant and appropriate and are most powerful when they are aligned with the buying cycle. Here are some examples of powerful stories: * Thought-leader stories that let scientists know what a well-regarded researcher in their field thinks of a product * Educational stories that provide information about what a colleague or peer does with the product and * Case studies that show how a scientist used the product successfully

What this means for your marketing campaign: while scientific stories are different from those told by consumer brands they are nevertheless important tools and use some of the same elements. Many good stories have their protagonist overcome challenges on their way to success. It shouldn’t be difficult to find challenges in scientific research that can be overcome – hopefully with the help of your products.

Myth #4 – Specs and features are all that matters

Of course, they do, but not only and not always. There is a time in a scientist’s decision process when they will pour over tables with features and comparisons charts, when the details of maintenance requirements and upgrade options are highly important. This time is at the end of the buying process, in the decision phase. After you got the scientists attention, convinced them they have a problem, showed them that you have a thought-leader and/or peer recommended solution that can solve it, only then is it time to dazzle them with detailed feature lists.

What this means for your marketing campaign: Those detailed charts you put together are still useful, but you need to use them strategically during the decision phase. Use nurture campaigns to guide the scientist through the buying journey and when they are ready to get down to the details of throughput, lower limits of detection and system integration it’s time to bring them out.

Modern technologies are revolutionizing marketing by enabling ever more precise targeting and personalization of content. At the same time a generation of scientists who can’t imagine a world without digital and social media is becoming the largest demographics in the workforce. Together these two developments force us to radically rethink the way we market to the scientific community: peer and influencer endorsements, brand awareness, stories and the deliberate use of social media are all important elements of marketing to today’s scientists.